Paul Casey rode a roller-coaster to the second-round clubhouse lead at the U.S. Open on Friday, surviving a hair-raising trip that included a gut-wrenching triple-bogey and a thrilling run of five straight birdies at the Erin Hills course in Wisconsin.
The Englishman eventually signed for 1-under 71 and walked into the clubhouse level with overnight leader Rickie Fowler, who had yet to start his round.
Lurking at 5-under was a pack including young South Korean Kim Si-woo, who recovered from an early bogey by stringing together three straight birdies through the turn on the way to a 2-under 70.
Canada’s Adam Hadwin is at 2-under after shooting a 2-over 74.
Few have had a more stomach-churning ride at a major as Casey, playing the Erin Hills back nine first, opened his round with a birdie at the 11th before plunging down the leaderboard with a triple-bogey at 14 and a bogey 15, then rocketing back into contention with five consecutive birdies.
Casey and other early starters were greeted by more challenging conditions than those they faced in the opening round as winds picked up and greens firmed around the links-style layout, making the longest course in U.S. Open history play even longer.
The Englishman began the day one shot behind Fowler and quickly joined the American at the top of the leaderboard.
But his stay was short-lived, giving the stroke right back with a bogey at the next hole followed by a triple bogey at par-five 14th.
The world No. 14 found himself in trouble when he flew his approach out of rough over the green into the deep fescue and needed five more strokes to get in the cup.
A rattled Casey added another bogey at the 15th to extend his miserable run before hitting the turbo-charger and firing off five consecutive birdies.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia returned a tidy one-under 71 to leave the Spaniard four back and in contention for a second straight major.
Some of the world’s top-ranked players and pre-tournament favourites look poised to miss the cut.
World number two Rory McIlroy, who has been sidelined for a month with rib and back injuries, followed his opening round 78 with a one-under 71, courtesy of four birdies over his final six holes.
But it was too little too late for the Northern Irishman who remains anchored near the bottom of the leaderboard at five over.
Jason Day, the world number three, also looks poised to get the weekend off after a 75 left the Australian at 10 over through two round.
World number one and defending champion Dustin Johnson is among the late starters and will have to improve on Thursday’s three-over effort if he hopes to take his title defence into the weekend. (Editing by Ed Osmond)